The UK government has committed to explore the possibility of building the world's first tidal power plant in Swansea Bay

Tidal power plant part of government's new infrastructure plan

The government has agreed to start in-depth discussions with the UK’s first tidal energy developer to help bring the innovative clean energy resource onto the grid as part of the National Infrastructure Plan.

Launched today, the National Infrastructure Plan sets out the government’s vision for all key infrastructure sectors, to be achieved over the next Parliament period and beyond.

The £460bn package of public and private investment includes the £15bn Strategic Road Network investment, announced yesterday, £2.3bn of funding for new flood defence measures to protect low-lying land and the £38bn Network Rail delivery programme, which involves electrification of key lines and further extension of the Crossrail link.

“Good quality infrastructure is vital for the economic well-being of this country,” said Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander. “Every part of the country needs to be able to move people, goods, data and power, quickly and easily, and to protect itself from flooding. That is what our pioneering focus on better infrastructure seeks to achieve.

The government will also start negotiations with Tidal Lagoon Power, which aims to build the UK’s first commercial power plant harnessing energy of the tides.

The backers of the £750-850m venture want to construct a 9.5km wall around Swansea Bay creating a lagoon in the Severn Estuary equipped with turbines to generate power from the tides.

The scheme would provide renewable power for 120,000 homes for 120 years, saving 236,000 tonnes of carbon a year and creating 1,850 construction jobs as well as 150 long term jobs in operation and leisure facilities created on the lagoon.

"Tidal energy is a huge opportunity for Britain,” said Energy Secretary Ed Davey.

“Tidal lagoons alone could provide up to 8 per cent of our power needs, replacing foreign fossil fuels with clean, reliable home-grown electricity. That's why we're showing investors and developers that we're serious about tidal lagoon potential and have started in-depth discussions for what could become the world's first tidal lagoon."

Further major energy infrastructure projects will be pursued as part of the National Infrastructure Plan. These include  undersea interconnectors, allowing exchange of electricity between the UK and neighbouring countries. According to the plan, interconnector operators will be able to bid for funding to ensure energy security and reduce bills, the Treasury said.

The government has also committed to provide a guarantee to assist with financing of the Moorside nuclear power plant project, a cooperation between Toshiba, GDF Suez and Nugen.

However, the Institution of Engineering and Technology's (IET) energy expert Simon Harrison warned that apart from funding more generators, the government should also focus on integrating the new components into the existing network to make sure the individual systems don't put the grid's resilience at risk, threatening power supplies. 

“It’s an exciting time for electricity infrastructure with eight of the “Top 40” projects being in electricity generation and networks," Harrison, a member of the IET's Energy Policy Panel, commented. "But greater strategic attention needs to be given to energy efficiency, given that the reduction in energy demand over the last few years has been largely caused by the economic downturn rather than by policy interventions and the Green Deal has failed to provide sufficient incentives for the public to improve the efficiency of the housing stock." 

Research and manufacturing of ultra-low emission vehicles will receive a £50m boost as part of the plan covering the period between 2017 and 2020. The government expects to directly invest £25m, with the rest coming from industry sponsors.

More information at:

National Infrastructure Plan

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